I don’t own a cell phone. I used to but I got rid of it. It never worked during those “emergencies” mobile carriers try and convince you are survivable only if you own one of their phones. Has anyone done a study proving cell phones make life safer and better? When you factor in the high bills, distracted drivers, traffic accidents, rude behaviors, and the occasional bout of brain cancer I doubt that it has.

I know most people can’t dream of life without cell phones. Personally I think they’re contraptions whose true value’s been ruthlessly marketed to separate people from their money. Ringtones for a buck? Data plans? Text messaging? Video and TV? In the words of Warren Buffet, “You make a product for a penny, you sell it for a dollar and you sell it to addicts.” And make them addicts while they’re young! Don’t believe me? They have cell phones for toddlers now!

I am not, however, a total antediluvian. Cell phones are miracles of technology and I know they’re here to stay. One day I might even have to break down and get one. But as a waiter I find cell phones a great annoyance. People using cell phones often think they’re creating a bubble of personal space within the public domain. Inside that bubble people think they can act like they’re at home – complete with yelling, inappropriate language and subject matter they’d normally whisper in private. Of course the bubble’s an illusion. There’s no private space – we can hear every word they’re saying! And if you ask someone talking on a cell to lower their voice or go outside what happens? They get all pissed off! This is very similar to what happens when people are confronted inside another artificial zone of personal space – their car. Ever heard of road rage? It’s the same principle! Talking on a cell phone while driving is like mixing Valium and Jack Daniels – not a good idea.

The development of technology has always outstripped the development of manners. Maybe, one day, social mores will evolve with technology and we’ll live in a quieter, more civil world. But until that day arrives I’ve decided to bitch about cell phones and share the hard won etiquette tips I developed after watching restaurant patrons act like idiots for years. So, without further ado I present….


1. Do not use your cell phone while driving. Pull over. Even hands free phones are distracting.

2. Refrain from using the cell phone on the subway, bus, airplane, and train.

3. When eating out do not use your cell phone at the table! (Unless you’re using the web browser to read Waiter Rant.) Go outside. I don’t care if it’s raining.

4. Talk normally. There’s no need to yell. If your surroundings are too loud maybe you shouldn’t be using your phone.

5. If you have to say, “Can you hear me now?” five times – they can’t. Hang up.

6. Do not interrupt a conversation with a real live person to answer your cell phone. (Transplant surgeons are exempt from this rule.)

7. Do not use your cell phone to talk to someone in the same room.

8. When out with coworkers or friends, constantly checking your phone for messages is annoying.

9. Text messaging while talking to another person is rude.

10. Your kid’s text messaging at the dinner table is rude! I can make them stop with a look. Why can’t you?

11. If your call gets dropped wait a few minutes and get into a better coverage area before calling back. Don’t frantically try calling me back NINE times in thirty seconds forcing me to listen to static. I don’t like you that much.

12. If you see a number you don’t recognize in your phone’s missed call log, don’t ring it at three AM saying, “Yo! I got a call from this number! You call me? Who’s this?” Pathetic.

13. Stick with one ring tone – you all know what I’m talking about.

14. Stopping abruptly in the middle of the sidewalk to answer your cell phone is moronic.

15. Make sure the thing’s charged when you leave the house. Restaurant outlets are not for your cell phone. Fluvio’s cell phone chargers already use up all the Bistro’s available outlets. (He has 5 cell phones, 2 Blackberries, and 2 PDA phones!) You knew this post was coming Fluvio.

16. Guys – when eating with other men in a restaurant don’t whip out your cell phones as you sit down and put them on the table. Nothing says “Gee, I wonder if his is bigger than mine?” than that little maneuver.

17. Put the phone on vibrate in a restaurant. Actually put it on vibrate everywhere. Put the damn thing in your pants if you’re looking for a little fun.

18. Unless you’re expecting a call from God – turn off your phone in church, synagogue, or the mosque.

19. Set the ringer volume below an ear shattering 200 decibels.

20. Don’t use the phone’s video camera in inappropriate places. Try using it in a strip club and see what happens.

21. Don’t keep the wireless headset plugged in your ear when not using the phone. The coolness quotient on that expired years ago. And while you’re blabbering into space don’t be offended if I mistake you for a schizophrenic. Sometimes I can’t see the headset.

22. If you’re running late the ability to call your boss from the road does not magically make your tardiness OK!

23. Having a cell phone does not mean you can change your plans nine times before actually meeting up with friends. Pick a time and place and stick to it.

24. Don’t have your friends call you with an “emergency” to extricate you from a bad date. Be a grownup and deal with it.

25. If you’re going to be late for a restaurant reservation please use your cell phone and tell us!

26. Turn off your cell phone at the opera, ballet, movies, live theater, and concerts. Again, transplant surgeons are exempt.

27. Turn off your cell phone before doing anything romantic – use your imagination.

28. Cell phones shouldn’t be allowed in schools. If parents are so concerned with their kid’s safety they shouldn’t vote down the school budget every year or elect local Mussolini clones to the Board of Education. Cell phones won’t teach a kid how to read or make then any safer. Besides – it makes cheating so much easier.

29. Answering your cell phone at a wake is the pinnacle of self involvement. You’re going to hell. Sorry.

30. Just turn the thing off.

Man, it felt good to just rant for a change. Feel free to add your own etiquette tips in the comments section!


  1. Dick says:

    Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha.
    I win.

  2. BethanytheMartian says:

    I don’t entirely disagree, but I think people who rage against cell phones are standing on the beach, yelling against the incoming tide.

    Like it or not, they’re here to say. However, they are a good way to tell assholes from the crowd.

  3. Caro says:

    Oh Waiter, I can’t believe you didn’t add this:
    Don’t talk on your phone when you need to pay for something! Doesn’t matter where, but as a cashier I hate when a customer is already talking on my phone when he/she is in a line up OR picks up the phone and starts talking and just WON’T GIVE ME THE MONEY. Learn to multi-task jackass, if I can bag your groceries with one hand, use my other hand to scan stuff or punch in the produce codes and watch the screen so I make sure the computer isn’t screwing up, you can talk on your phone and hand me your credit card.

  4. Darling Nikki says:

    @Caro the same holds true for convenience store clerks talking on THEIR cell phones when I’m trying to pay for something…or cabbies for that matter. I know your job is boring but that’s just rude.

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  6. Robin says:

    Dear Lord Spambot from hell…

  7. Andy says:

    someone sounds old…

  8. JC says:

    Hey now… #16 is so not fair. I take my phone out of my pocket and drop it on the table for the same reason I take my keys out of my pocket. Comfort. The only time I cared about who saw it or what they thought of it was the first 2 or 3 days after I got it (first gen iphone, waited in line, etc etc etc), because I was having so much fun showing people all the neat features.

  9. Chocklit says:

    Add this: Never go through ANOTHER PERSON’S phone!

  10. Danielle says:

    #16 drives me nuts, too.
    Who’s going to bitch and moan when me, you or someone else spills something at your table onto your cell phone?

    And #10?
    I am of the belief that texting is the downfall of civilization.
    I have been know to stand at a table staring at someone texting (usually a teen), doing my own version of the waiter stare, until they look up at me and acknowledge my existence.

  11. joy anne says:

    never tell your boss that your quitting your job through text message =)

  12. SFBartender says:

    To add to Joy Anne–bosses never fire an employee through a text message!!! I had a barowner do this to one of our doormen!!! Unreal!

  13. Laura Filipchuk says:

    I once knew some morons who fired a new employee (after fewer than the maximum trial-period 30 days) over a voicemail on her home phone. When she showed up in person, they literally ducked out the back until she gave up trying to go to work. They were the most cowardly people I’ve ever known.

    Also, my cell phone has actually saved me in multiple situations- namingly car trouble (I’ve burned out my battery and driven the car into a ditch and both times I was SO glad to have a cell phone on me!)

  14. Kardec says:

    #32: Putting your hand over your mouth to muffle the sound actually makes you sound louder. Don’t do it.

  15. Anon says:

    I like #30!

    I’m a teller and some of my customers are too busy talking on their cell phone to handle their transaction. Shocking news: I’m not a mindreader! You can’t just thrust cash/check/etc at me and think I magically know what you want me to do. Hang up! I just sit and wait for them to finish talking before I do anything. Of course some of them think I’M the rude one and say stuff like “Cash it, duh!” Then they’ll talk about how stupid the tellers are to the person on the phone. HELLO? I can hear you!

  16. Sarah the Second says:

    I hate the finger. You know– you go to speak to someone (it’s usually the douchebags with earpieces) and they just hold up their index finger without making eye contact. A nice little “piss off, I’m talking to more important people”. Yeah, thanks asshole.

  17. angel says:

    don’t order at any fast food place with cellphones.
    I had this one guy come in with one and normally I don’t mind too much when people order with cellphones-they are getting for someone else and don’t want to get the order wrong. But “Bleach” came in ordered but the whole time he was at my register and who ever he was talking to didn’t like what he was ordering for himself and on top of that he only had $4 with him, needless to say he didn’t have enough so I reworked it so he’d have enough, and tried to clear the changes with him. But when he got to the end he wasn’t happy. I looked at my manager and said not my fault he has a cellphone glued to his head and can’t shut up for a second!

  18. Emma says:

    My cell actually has helped me in a few emergencies (mainly navigating the nonsensically structured public transit system in a strange city while getting to a funeral, and avoiding getting lost late at night), so it is surgically

  19. Holly says:

    If you don’t like cell phones now…you should read Stephen King’s “Cell”. You’ll hate them after reading that.

  20. J says:

    @ Chocklit — I disagree. I think that if you are considering dating an individual, you should see what pictures he/she carries in their camera phone. There was a guy who kept naked pictures of his ex in there. If he’s over her, then they should have been deleted. If he’s not over her, he shouldn’t be out shopping for a newer model. It helped me keep it to just one date with that guy.

  21. CheThef says:

    I was actually laid off/ let go/ fired, by text message. my boss said he didn’t need me that weekend. then the following week he texted that he didn’t need me ever again. he refused to do it in person. then he told unemployment that I had quit. this forced a stoppage of benefits and a bill from the state to repay what had already been paid. what a piece of shit he turned out to be

  22. becky says:

    I will not help someone until they are off their cell phones. I worked as a waitress for 4 years and then at a lab drawing blood. I just say in a nice polite way ” I will help you when you are done” gets them off the phone really quickly.

  23. Sammy says:

    I don’t see anything wrong with number 16. I put my cell phone, my wallet and keys on the inside of the table because it’s anoyying in my pants. Not that big of a deal. and it’s always on vibrate.

  24. Gwen says:

    I HATE when people text while they’re working. I’m a waitress and all the other servers(and a few of the managers) Text on the clock. It’s one thing if the restaurant is dead and you’re bored out of your mind, I used to do it, too. But if it’s packed and you’re busy, don’t pull out your phone to check your messages then complain about being in the weeds!

  25. Kat says:

    I had a guest at my wedding wearing a blue tooth headset! I absolutely won’t help someone or check them out while they are on their cell phone, if there’s a line I just say next

    I disagree with the cellphones in school thing. I don’t think they should be used during school but I was always getting a ride home with someone else and sometimes they would forget. Or if I wanted to check out and bitch teacher from hell wouldn’t let me to to the nurse (I had apendicitis) it was great to see the expression on her face when I whipped out my cell phone and called my mom

  26. Sam says:

    My father patronizes a woman that works at a hair styling place because she is very good at what she does. She was telling him about a customer she had who came in while talking on his cell phone, sat down in the chair (in order to get his hair cut) while talking and never stopped talking on the phone! In fact, he left STILL on the phone. She confided (with no small amount of glee) that she left the hair around his ear longer because she didn’t want to mess with it, thus giving him an unbalanced haircut. Serves him right!

    Good work on the blog; recent reader! 🙂

  27. Cheryl says:

    I hate flying – and no longer take the train to work because of cell phones. Even with earplugs and/or headphones you can still hear people droning on.

    At work I let my cubicle neighbors know in the nicest way I could – and they now take their cells out to the hall. But WHY do I have to tell them? I can’t imagine having long personal calls in my cublicle. If you can hear others, doesn’t it seem logical that they can hear you too?!

    Last week I did the stare-down thing to a guy sitting across from me on a plane stuck at the gate. Hey, if you wan’t me hear everything about your personal life, then I may as well watch you to. The guy looked up and said ‘can I help you? Is my cell bothering you?’ But in that smart aleck way. He had his big feet stretched out in the aisle still tripping people as he did all flight long. An annoying, self-centered young guy. I said angrilly, ‘Duh!’. He kept on, and my adrenaline was so high from my anger, I did my best to ignore him and pushed my earplugs in harder. The girl next to him stared at me with disgust. Young people nowadays are amazingly selfsish. When we de-planed I found a restroom and punched out my luggage I was still so angry. It’ll be a long time before I fly again. Will I ever ‘get used’ to rude cell phone users? Never.

  28. PoisonX says:

    I just love neo-luddists… please, Waiter, cut your wrists with a piece of chipped flint, and finally find some inner peace.

    Yours truly,
    Poison X

  29. KT says:

    I’ve never understood what is wrong with talking on your cell phone in public, it’s the same as talking to another person it’s just one sided.

  30. Sandra says:

    Forget putting your phone on vibrate..just put it all the way on silent!! If you’re in a quiet area (ie library or in class) and a phone starts vibrating, sometimes it’s just as loud as ringing!

  31. Katie says:

    haha. I get the index finger thing quiet often. I’ll be reciting the specials or answering questions, the phone rings, and the guy/girl pulls it out and starts talking while holding up an index finger. It makes me feel like an idiot- stopping mid-sentence and all. or if they’re ordering and the phone rings they put up their finger answer, and start talking. If I start walking away (because there are other, good, and nice customers who deserve and need attention) they’ll wave me back and point to the rest of what they want on the menu, or try mouthing words.
    Excuse me?

  32. Kate says:


    YES. It pisses me off so much when people talk on their phones while I’m serving them. Like I don’t deserve the common courtesy of their attention for TEN SECONDS. It’s very simple: wait until you’ve finished talking to come to the counter, and DON’T answer it in the middle of a transaction. Your wife/husband/friend’s head will not explode if they don’t hear your voice in the next five seconds. Geez.

    With the ones already talking on their phones, I can legitimately employ my ignoring policy, and if they question me, say all innocent and passive aggressive “oh, I’m SO sorry, I didn’t think you were ready yet!”
    It’s the ones who answer during the transaction, when I can’t just stop serving them that piss me off more. And apologising sheepishly afterwards does not make it better!

    Sometimes I will just try and talk loudly and cheerfully in their face to interrupt whatever mindless conversation they’re having.

    And @Katie – yes, I’ve had a similar experience. Some bitch on the phone motioned for me to give her pen and paper, wrote down the name of a book, pushed it across the counter at me, and kept talking. When I tried to clarify her chicken scratchings and asked her a question, she actually SHUSHED ME. WHAT THE FUCK. I told her “sorry, we don’t have that”, and walked off. Thinking of it still makes me angry to this day.

  33. nikki says:

    why would 5 men at a bbq in seoul korea leave thier cell phones on the table instead of in thier pants pocket? then when the phone rang some asia women answered? is this some new sex game? am i nieve?

  34. Kaylee says:

    DO NOT talk on the phone at the doctor’s office, dentist, etc. There is nothing more annoying than reading a 3 year old O Magazine, and listening to a soccer mom blabbing on her cell phone!

  35. hailey says:

    thanks i have now reallized i don’t need one of those stupid things

  36. Torrie says:

    Brilliant. This should be a public service announcement.
    I’d also like to add that under no circumstances should you use your phone on an ice rink. Aside from distracting you from skating (and it’s always people who are wobbly skaters to begin with), if you drop your phone, then hold us responsible for it getting mashed into a thousand pieces by small children, rest assured the ice rink staff are probably laughing at you silently as they eject you from the premises. I’ve seen at least three people break bones from sliding over someone-or-other’s brushed aluminium pride and joy, losing control and falling down. Was that call worth causing a kid to break a wrist?

    To the people who take issue with #16: Check your stuff fits comfortably in your pockets BEFORE you buy new clothes. If they don’t, then why should the rest of us have to deal with your inability to buy properly-fitting clothing? You will be the first to complain when you knock your drink all over your phone.

  37. Gingy says:

    @Torrie, I don’t know about you, but I don’t think many people base their clothing around their cellphones :P:P Annnnddd, having them on the table isn’t that much of a big deal unless they’re constantly vibrating or ringing, but if they’re not then it really shouldn’t be a problem, should it?

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